Tag Archive | AT

“Mystery Dungeon” Review

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Original Airdate: January 21, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

Adventure Time has the benefit of having a very compelling cast of secondary characters, so the idea that we won’t be getting a typical Finn and Jake adventure is never something that’s dreaded. That’s why when I saw there would be an episode that starred Ice King, Tree Trunks, Lemongrab, NEPTR, AND Shelby, I instantly said to myself, “this is going to be the greatest episode of all time.” While that may have been a gross exaggeration, it definitely is a great comedic outing for the season and series in general.

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What makes this such a strong episode is really just blending all of these unique personalities together. Lemongrab’s histrionic behavior, Ice King’s loneliness, Tree Trunks’ slow mind, Shelby’s sarcasm, and NEPTR’s optimism all work off of each other just great, and individually they work just as well. It’d be silly to not talk about each character and what makes their presence work in this one, so I’ll take a look at them one by one.

This is probably Lemongrab’s most straightforward funny appearance outside of his debut. Lemongrab is mostly utilized for psychological and somewhat antagonistic reasons in his featured episodes, but this one mostly focuses on just how unusual and loud the sad lemon man is. And boy, does it pay off. I think this is arguably his funniest appearance in the series, only adding to his already over-the-top behavior, including him punching a rat, eating a pie out of the rat’s mouth, and constantly referring to people as his slaves. He really is the biggest tyrant ever featured in the series, and it’s emphasized in this one for added hilarity. I think his desire to rule others in this one, as well as You Made Me, are really what drive his further desires to have complete control over others in future episodes.

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I just noticed something. NEPTR is fucking sweating. What a ludicrous visual.

NEPTR is, as always, a lovable loser. It’s a fucking crime against society that this is his only appearance in season five, because every time he’s on-screen, it’s just delightful. And I’m so glad they took advantage of the NEPTR-Ice King dynamic once again; I assumed that was something that was just going to be virtually ignored, but it’s nice to see that, even after NEPTR chose Finn and Jake, he still has positive feelings toward his “poppy.” Even more fitting is seeing that the Ice King doesn’t remember him even slightly, and even sadder is that NEPTR wasn’t supposed to be included at all! If there’s one character in this show that’s sadder than Ice King, it’s NEPTR man. It hurts my soul when Ice King calls him a “useless pile of junk.” Though, it’s nice to see that he and his poppy get a happy ending. It’s pretty sweet that NEPTR actually remembered something that Ice King taught him.

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Tree Trunks brings her usual dimwitted old-person-ness to the table, and I like how her role is virtually useless as well. Like, would her ability to make apple pies have really saved her and the others from a giant rat? It’s likely not. She did provide the grossest sequence in the entire episode when she snorted a dollop of snot, or “essence” into Lemongrab’s mouth, which still kind of has me scratching my head to this day. How did she know that would even work? I enjoy her long-winded monologue aimed at Ice King, but mainly for the fact that her slow speech patterns and demeanor just completely divert the attention of everyone watching her. It’s like, I as an audience member even have trouble following her unfocused babble, and the characters humorously follow in the same direction.

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Shelby brings a bit of sarcastic edge to this one, and I truly think he’s the shining star. I really appreciate his dry-wit and his attitude of “I could give less than a fuck,” throughout the entire episode. Probably the biggest laugh I get out of this one is the fake-out where it seems like Shelby’s going to volunteer to be on the fishing line, and then it immediately cuts to Tree Trunks. That was a terrific bit with great timing and payoff.

And of course, the man who concocted this whole plan himself, the Ice King. I have to give him props for his insanely convoluted plan, and how it, for the most part, works. It’s a strangely competent plan for the likes of the IK, despite the fact that he clearly didn’t wasn’t paying attention when he grabbed NEPTR, because he doesn’t look a thing like BMO. And tying the entire plan back to Ice King’s desire to bring Fionna and Cake into the real world was pure genius. Though, my only gripe with this is that it would’ve made much more sense coming after Bad Little Boy than before. I’m not sure what came first in production order, but now that episode just has a somewhat confusingly foreshadow-y ending with no real payoff. Though, the payoff in this one with the book coming alive at the literal hands of the Ancient Sleeping Magis of Life Giving (his first appearance!) was deeply hilarious, and I know this pissed a lot of people off, but c’mon, you have to at least snicker a bit at his incessant flatulence and Mickey Mouse gloves and voice.

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As I mentioned, I think the episode ends on a perfectly sweet note with NEPTR reminding Ice King about his imagination zone. Also on a hilarious note, as Lemongrab makes an extremely abrupt departure and utters, “byedon’tfollowme,” and Finn, Jake, and Shelby watch the Ice King and lament over how sad he is, and how sad they are watching him.

It’s worth noting that this is a “Dungeon” episode, and while the actual dungeon itself isn’t the focus of the episode, they do manage to craft a relatively creative area filled with traps, neat looking beasts, and cool landscapes. It’s far from the coolest dungeon AT has ever put out, but again, the focus of the episode is the humor, not necessarily the visuals.

And aside from that, I have remarkably little to say. This is just an all around funny episode filled with great jokes, characterization, interactions, and twists. It’d be pointless of me to go through every great joke or line in this one, because there’s so Goddamn many of them. So here’s a special Favorite line section filled with some of the episode’s greatest bits of dialogue.

Favorite line(s):

“Check out my mods, bro!”

“Ice King, how do you taste?”

“Make pies, slave.”

“Golly, how we ever gonna worm our way out of this… fishy situation?”

“Don’t criticize my running, Shelby.”

“So stop sellin’ fib-bibs and give it straight!”

“You should’ve told us! I would’ve freaking brought something!”

“You serve no function, you must be destroyed.”

“Who in this world is sadder than the Ice King?” “Me, watching this.”

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“Davey” Review

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Original Airdate: January 14, 2013

Written & Storyboarded by: Somvilay Xayaphone & Skyler Page

I quite enjoy the concept of Davey. Finn quarreling with his identity as a hero, and wanting to just be “normal” amongst any average citizen of Ooo is a really great idea for a premise. After all, Finn certainly isn’t the kind of person to do things specifically for attention or credibility. He does it because he likes to battle bad guys and do favors for other people, that’s just who he is. When it comes down to it, however, Finn is some who enjoys his privacy, and despite his friendliness and outgoing behavior, he still is slightly introverted. So the episode largely focuses around Finn trying to go about town as a “regular person,” and does so with mildly satisfying results.

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I love the entire beginning sequence, containing a fast paced dragon slaying at the hands of Finn’s demon blood sword. The entire scene is great, poppy fun, and I love Finn and Jake’s carelessness throughout. Jake’s just chilling playing video games, and he flips Finn into mid-air without even looking up, to which Finn quite beautifully slices through a dragon’s buns. Also Jake’s advice, “don’t let the dragon drag on, dude,” probably has a ton of different interpretations for meaning behind it, but I just like to think of it as a lovely bit of nonsense. The overemotional Candy Person who really wants to have dinner with Finn is one of my favorite gag characters. This character is actually based off of someone who Pendleton Ward had previously met at Comic Con, who was insistently begging for the same request. Appropriately enough, Ward also voices this character, and the delivery of the lines is what really makes him so enjoyable. I just like picturing in my head how dinner with Finn and this dude would actually go. I imagine it’d be filled with a lot of screaming.

As Finn begins to feel that he wishes he was more normal, I do have to say that the subtlety of his issues both works for and against the actual dilemma of the episode. I appreciate the later seasons’ approaches to how characters feel and why they feel the way that they do. There’s usually no heavy exposition or characters saying “I feel x because of y;” it’s moreso just the character having an issue and dealing with it by what we would expect that character to do, without even addressing the problem in words. And this is how Finn is portrayed in this episode: he feels sad about not being able to freely go about his day, so he takes action by taking on a new identity. It’s a borderline personality crisis that I’m glad was covered with so much grace, but simultaneousy, I’m just disappointed there wasn’t more build-up or focus on Finn’s issue. I feel like it would’ve been a more effective first act if it showed Finn constantly running into situations where he felt smothered and unable to go about his daily life. I just think it’s odd that a couple of people screaming outside his house was what drove Finn over the edge into feeling as though he couldn’t go about his life calmly, and it’s one of those episodes that I think could’ve benefited from a few extra minutes, but there’s no use complaining about an 11 minute show that usually manages to fit so much important junk in that span of time. It’s another one of those situations where something isn’t done badly, I’d just like to see it in much more deeper light, because Finn having an identity crisis is, as we’ve seen really interesting.

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But the truth of the matter is, this isn’t the dark and solemn crisis Finn was experiencing two episodes earlier in All the Little People; this is a bright and silly episode full of comical ideas, and for what it is, it’s pretty fun! There’s tons of great visual gags to take from this one: Jake beating an egg into flour ($10 he wasn’t even going to actually cook anything), Finn’s gravity-defying flip from his window onto the grass, Finn eating a cocoa bird that costs money, and then just blatantly throwing the money he has into a fountain instead, and, my favorite, Finn sweeping up mini brooms with a broom. There’s tons of absurdly silly moments like that, and I found myself appreciating them a lot more on rewatch than when I first saw this episode. The character of Davey is pretty funny as well. It’s worth noting that Davey Johnson is based on the real-life Davey Johnson, who voices Xergiok, as well as the character of Davey himself. Johnson does a terrific job of voicing Davey, and giving him such a mundane, yet likable voice. Speaking of mundane, I really like how humorously boring Davey’s life is. He just builds log cabins and hangs out with some guy named Randy, who too is delightfully monotonous. That poor guy just gets shit on the entire time he’s on screen.

I’ve said this before this season with Up a Tree, but this is one that Skyler Page and Somvilay gifted with a really nice, relaxed atmosphere. There’s a good minute or so that’s just Davey walking around and checking out his surroundings, and it’s really calming and helps emphasize the type of life that Finn is capable of achieving. And, by episode’s end, I do kinda find myself siding with Finn’s debacle on whether to continue to be Davey or to return to being Finn. I mean, Davey’s life is quite boring, but there is something rewarding about a life of quietness and peace, which I think Finn has come to realize. Yet, it’s abandoning Finn’s true self, who does love a life of spontaneity and devoting his attention to helping others. Which is why he uses his alternate persona to selflessly put other people’s needs before himself by the end of it. And it’s nice to see that, as a hero, Finn is looked at as someone who isn’t capable of doing anything wrong. The Banana Guards don’t suspect a thing from him (though probably mostly due to their stupidity) and he realizes that there are people who need him in their life, like Jake. Again, I wish there was a bit more of realization in Finn to make it a stronger conclusion, but it’s a sweet ending that reunites the brothers regardless.

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So yeah, it’s a light one, but one I do enjoy. I wish there was more attention focused on Finn’s issue, but I think the humor and atmosphere are what shape this up to be a perfectly serviceable entry. Lots of quirky gags, good character moments, and a solid story. Also, adorable BMO scenes! The little guy is especially cute in this one, I felt so bad for him when Finn shaved his hair off. I feel you, Beems. Davey is an aspect of Finn’s personality that has never returned in the series, though mentioned in Issue #50 of the comics, where he was apparently one of Finn’s past lives. Whether it’s canon or not, it definitely is an interesting scenario to use the character for, so if you’re a person out there who just really, really enjoyed this episode or the title character, I’d say check it out!

Favorite line: “Oh, I thought it was Finn on account of he’s wearing Finn’s exact clothes.”

“All the Little People” Review

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Original Airdate: December 3, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Jesse Moynihan & Ako Castuera

There’s a certain amount of criteria that must be met for an episode of AT to rank among my all-time favorites. It needs to:

  1. Be different from the show’s usual formula, while still retaining the charm and delightful characterization of any regular episode.
  2. Capture everything that makes the series so special, including good humor, heart, charismatic characters, and thought-provoking material.
  3. Be unique to anything else I’ve ever seen on television.

While there’s certainly plenty of episodes that meet parts of this criteria, only a select few meet all three individual points. All the Little People, with its very dark and uncomfortable approach at capturing Finn’s constantly evolving adolescence, hits on all of these points. It still takes place in the Land of Ooo and follows the latest debacle of our two main heroes, but rather than fighting a physical enemy or solving some sort of quest, Finn instead has to battle with his own identity and how much control he should be able to have over other people. It gets heavy-handed and grim, but remains bright and colorful throughout, and still captures the quirkiness, heart, and depth of our main boys. And I can’t think of a single series that captures a teenager’s fascination with relationships, combined with the the act of manipulation and the question of power so delicately and perfectly. It lands right up there with Sons of Mars, I Remember You, and Incendium on my personal group of favorites.

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Right from the title card, it’s hard not to be left with an ominous feelings of what’s ahead. The picture itself appears innocent and playful, as Magic Man designs toys (the Little People) of Finn and others. The music cue is what really makes the artwork feel significant and impactful. The entire episode’s soundtrack derives from the tune of a quarter-tone piano, and the title card itself includes a sample of it. Once the loud and hollow cue of a bass-drum goes off during this sample, you really get a feeling of “oh shit, something big is going down.” I don’t give the composers of this show, Tim Kiefer and Casey James, enough credit in these reviews, but they really did a stupendous job in particular with the score for this episode. The entire score feels unwelcoming, and really compliments the the tone and atmosphere of the actual episode.

The beginning of the episode starts off with a beautifully lit sunset, as the boys sit wistfully by a cliff and discuss relationships. I really love how the main story of this episode is set up by Finn asking simple and innocent questions about relationships and how they work. Though he’s involved in a committed relationship, Finn is only fourteen, and wildly inexperienced. He still has much time before he is able to grasp the fundamentals of a successful and healthy relationship, and still has many questions on how he will be able to achieve such a relationship. It’s interesting to see that, while he deeply cares for Flame Princess, it seems he may have some doubts about his relationship. He and FP have great chemistry, but still are wildly different in nature and interests. Jake, being someone who has tons of life experience and knows what a healthy relationship should consist of, gives Finn the most simple and surprisingly most logic answer of “just go with your heart.” It’s a sweet moment between the brothers that showcases the differences of the boys in the best ways possible, and clearly captures early on that Jake understands the matrix of relationships, while Finn may not be able to fully understand yet.

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This is where Magic Man makes his brief entrance, while he enjoys the boys’ conversation and even shares a laugh with them. Even to this day, it’s hard to understand what exactly Magic Man’s motivation is, whether to teach Finn a lesson in responsibility, or simply to fuck with his life as always. There’s tons of different angles you can take with it, but probably my favorite is just simply the idea that Magic Man wanted to show Finn what it’s like to have power over other people. Magic Man is constantly ruining the lives of others and playing god by using his magic to determine the destiny of others, so he’s now showing Finn how easy it is to take things out of control and abuse the power one does have over other living beings.  

Before Magic Man departs, he states, “I’m not coming back.”

And yeah, there’s tons of different moments I can point out to when it comes to allusions to Finn’s sexual awakening; Finn’s reaction to Jake noticing that he has something in his pants, the way Finn shakes the little people, yadda yadda. To mention it all would be somewhat redundant. It’s all there and all pretty obvious, but I think there are way more interesting bits regarding Finn’s identity as a hero and as person than just pointing to any scene that references Finn’s horny, teen urges. It’s a fun glimpse at how much they were able to get past the radar, but it’d be silly to waste a ton of time highlighting anything that y’all probably already thought about the minute you saw it.

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The most interesting aspect is really just the way Finn interacts with the Little People. I enjoy how the Little People are versions of pre-existing characters we already know. They could’ve just went full-on Sims and had these miniature versions be any random customized figurines, but the fact that they are citizens of Ooo helps us connect to them more emotionally, while still being able to disconnect them from their grown counterpart. The Peanuts adult speech patterns of the Little People are cute and endearing, and really help to separate them from appearing to be sentient beings. As Finn continuously says throughout the episode, “they’re just toys,” which shows his ignorance towards understanding that the Little People are anything besides just that: interactive figures for the pleasures of Finn and Jake. Had the Little People been speaking English as opposed to their trademark “wa wa wa’s,” I think Finn’s actions would easily be more despicable and unpleasant, but the fact that the distinction is there makes it seem more understandable that Finn would want to use them however he likes. I mean, being honest, who wouldn’t want to interact with these characters the way that Finn is? Having a tiny bag containing little versions of all the people you know would be dangerously intriguing, which makes Finn’s decision to experiment with them more empathetic and less cruel.

It is noteworthy that, the first time Finn does choose to experiment with the Little People, he first checks to see if Jake is awake.  It’s clear that Finn know that he’s doing something wrong, even if he’s not sure why. Whether he didn’t want Jake to wake up and see that he was destroying the miniature version of he and Lady’s relationship, or that he simply didn’t want Jake to know that he was experimenting with these figures at all, it’s clear that Finn’s fascination with these figures succeeds his desire to be morally correct and thoughtful in regards to his interactions. That’s why, when Jake does realize what Finn’s been doing the next morning, he’s noticeably freaked out. Probably the most shocking moment in the entire episode is Jake discovering the little Finn and little Rainicorn smooching, as Finn reacts apathetically to the entire situation. Finn acknowledges once again, “they’re just toys,” (while also reading a book by J.T. Doggzone that has the exact same quote from Jake in the beginning of the episode, hint hint) showing that, even though he’s spent an entire night seeing how the Little People would interact with each other, his desire to play with the Little People and see how their relationships with each other work out has only gotten worse.

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This is where Finn’s manipulative side comes out in full force; it will later plague his life in ways he probably could never have imagined, but one of his greatest character flaws comes from simple curiosity and desire to have people’s lives follow in the ways that he’s most interested in. Like I said, when putting it in this context, it makes Finn seem like a monstrous, immoral jerk, but his ignorance toward the situation and general fascination are hard to pinpoint as truly sociopathic for a 14-year-old boy. Most of this intrigue derives from his initial curiosity with how relationships work in the very first frame: he’s simply invested in the unusual relationships he’s created with the Little People and interested in how they are able to function in certain partnerships. This, of course, includes an obligatory inclusion of the threesome between Lollipop Girl, Choose Goose, and Abracadaniel that everyone has been requesting to see for years. It refers back to my statement earlier that this episode manages to be very unsettling while also being silly and colorful. I can’t even describe my feelings of combined disgust and enjoyment with Turtle Princess spanking Xergiok’s behind. It’s also a nice return for some characters we really never get to see or haven’t seen since the very first season, even if it isn’t actually said characters.

Following this bit is probably the most interesting piece in the episode, which is Finn experimenting with the tiny FP and tiny PB respectively. It starts out innocently enough as Finn just casually and happily watches the two figurines romanticize with each other (much to the dismay of a crying little Lady; the first big indicator that the Little People are capable of real, human emotions). Things take a turn when Finn then begins to experiment with little PB and little Finn’s interactions, which quickly take the same direction as the prior encounter. I think the particular pacing in this part is just great; just from Finn’s facial expressions, there’s a lot to read into. He looks very concerned and troubled when little PB and little him begin to interact, perhaps due to the nature of his feelings and commitment to Flame Princess, which probably brings him a great deal of shame and guilt that he is pursuing this fantasy. He quickly shakes off the guilt when he notices that no one is watching, and continues to be invested on what will happen next. When little PB and little Finn begin to kiss, Finn is surprised. This is the first time he’s experiencing a mutual “hook-up” with PB, aside from when she was briefly 13, and even though it’s not actually him experiencing it, he’s still enticed and enthralled by the turn of events. This of course, is another big indicator that Finn still isn’t really over Bubblegum. Sure, the little version of himself and little Lady (boy, am I tired of putting “little” before every character’s name in this post) hooking up doesn’t mean that Finn is also interested in Lady. That was probably just an early experiment to test out all of the interesting connections he could make between the Little People. Yet, when little Finn and little PB do connect, Finn is obviously much more interested in seeing what happens with the two, and it’s clear he is living out some sort of fantasy through the Little People. Little Finn’s glory doesn’t last long, however, when little Flame Princess releases her anger against little PB, but Finn himself couldn’t be more interested. He’s understandably turned on by the idea of his two main flames fighting over him! Again, another very uncomfortable scene that’s balanced with some really great visual humor. I love Finn’s absolutely stimulated face throughout the fight sequence, and of course, the hilarious visual of little PB squeezing little Lady’s tears to douse little Flame Princess. That was priceless. It adds another bit of foreshadowing to the mix, showing Finn’s arousal to people fighting over him and an instance where he’d rather pursue his own needs of autonomy than follow a more logical and moral standpoint.

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Finn finally does come to his senses upon Jake’s return. Finn begins to realize that these tiny people, whether toys, separate entities, or plain dark magic, are suffering, and they are suffering because of the way Finn has messed with their lives. Jake says it best:

This is messed up dude! You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff. The destruction, the depravity, the wrongness of it all!

The somberness of Jake’s words, combined with the horrifying transformative montage of a melting Peppermint Butler, a physically abusive Turtle Princess, and a mangled Goose-Abracadaniel-Lollipop threesome, really drives the point home. Jake told Finn how relationships work at the beginning of the episode: there aren’t designed perfect relationships for others, but rather the feelings people have for each other and what they choose to do with those feelings that define a healthy relationship. Finn chose to ignore that advice and play match-maker, which backfired for others as well as himself. Finn’s only choice left is to fix what he started, as he strives to do so often as a hero. Finn uses the new method he’s discovered to communicate with the Little People, and to correct the damage he’s caused.

After talking with little Finn, little PB, little Lady, and little FP, Finn simply states, “I’m not coming back.”

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It mirrors Magic Man’s line from the beginning, and shows how similar, yet different the two are in terms of their power over other people. Magic Man uses his power to destroy and harm other lifeforms, and, instead of leaving these lifeforms in a safe place of comfort, he always departs with a message of hopelessness and pessimism. Finn had also used his powers over others to mess with and harm their lives, though unintentionally, yet he corrects those actions by fixing his dilemma and leaving the Little People on a note where they’re able to carelessly enjoy their lives. But still, it’s almost a bit of a paradox, because Magic Man did teach Finn a lesson and left him to carelessly go on with his life after correcting his mistakes, so it causes the statement to draw even stronger connections between these two characters. Regardless of intention, it’s really great to be able to have this connection between these two wildly different characters, and still have it feel appropriate with the story and each of their motivations. And of course, what better way to end on a happy note than to have a Little People dance party with Ice King and BMO really hitting it off? Can’t wait for the continuation of this relationship 110 episodes from now!

If there’s one sole thing I don’t like about this episode, it’s that Goddamn “16 weeks later” title card. Yeah, yeah, it’s a gag that lasts two seconds and probably shouldn’t be taken so literally, but AT takes place in a world of realism and has certain rules to abide by, and time is definitely one of them. This is something Jesse Moynihan seems to do a lot, and while I think it worked in an episode like Return to the Nightosphere, it really, really does not work here. I have a tough time believing that Jake went without talking to Finn, who is still in his sweaty, disgusting pajamas for 112 days. Also, if it was that long, why does everything feel like it’s only been a day? Little Lady is mourning over her relationship with little Finn as if it had just ended, with little PB also holding a similar grudge. Again, I get it, it’s a brief gag that’s only supposed to emphasize how freaked out Jake was by Finn’s actions, but I just don’t buy it. It’s a cheap gag that they really could’ve just removed completely. It’s not funny or entertaining enough to even include.

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But, that minor gripe aside, boy, do I love this one! It really is such a rich character study of our main hero, taking him in places he’s really never been, and foreshadowing more awkward and intense drama that will follow in his early teen years. It’s an episode I love primarily for it’s atmosphere; everything feels very unsettling by Finn’s actions, the music, the situational pieces, and just the outlandish nature of the Little People in general. The entire episode feels like a Twilight Zone segment, in the sense that Finn is somewhat of the everyman. I mean, he typically can be seen as the everyman, but this example is probably the most notable in the viewpoint of a completely harmless activity gone terribly wrong at the hands of an normal, charismatic person. Finn does some awful, terrible things, but we still root for him because we know he’s in a situation that even the most level-headed person wouldn’t be able to resist. It’s one I never get sick of revisiting, and one that certainly has a high place on my all-time favorites list.

Hope everybody had a great holiday as well! Thankful for all of your readers out there who visit this blog every week to see me read way too far into a children’s cartoon like a giant nerd. There’s plenty of great content to come in the next few months, and I’m excited to continue on this journey through Season Five. Thanks everyone!

Favorite line: “You’ve crossed the line from weird curiosity into some dark, messed up stuff.”

 

“Up a Tree” Review

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Original Airdate: November 26, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Skyler Page & Somvilay Xayaphone

I’ve done it again! I incorrectly mentioned that Season Four was the only season Skyler Page worked on, but lo and behold, he still has two episodes left. This time, paired with Somvilay, and it seems as though he adopts Somvilay’s style of writing and character design quite accurately, as, from looking at the episode and storyboard in general, I had a tough time deciphering who contributed what. It’s an interesting pairing that makes for an interesting episode, but for the most part, I think it works. Like I mentioned, even in Page’s portion, there’s a ton of Somvilay stylistic choices that usually bother me; the slow pacing, use of anti-humor, and some very wonky drawings of Finn (though this one still bothers me. I refer to my good pal Stuped over on the reddit who mentioned that Finn “looks like a refrigerator.”) While these issues seemed to plague an episode like Ignition Point, I think it actually works pretty well with the tone and laidback atmosphere that Up a Tree set out to create.

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There’s something quite… relaxing about this one, so to speak. It’s in the same vein as Jake the Brick (though, I’ll say right now, that episode is much superior in quality) in the sense that I feel as though this is an episode I can fall asleep to. It’s very low energy, and I quite enjoy watching Finn just take a simple expedition up a tree that is turned into a much bigger and more complicated matter, ala AT style.

There’s a lot of fun set-up moments, like Finn and Jake’s game of “throwing and catching disk” (this episode actually made me realize the term “Frisbee” is copyrighted by Wham-O) which has their take on the ego of “human boy” and “dog” in probably the silliest and most ignorant depictions of their olden counterparts possible. Funny enough, I’m wondering if Finn’s knowledge of dog’s only being able to bark in the olden days derives from his experience as his Farmworld counterpart. Afterall, it’s later revealed that some of Ooo’s civilians didn’t even know that dogs didn’t used to talk, so I’m wondering if Finn subconsciously picked it up, or if it was just something that Marcy spilled to him sometime prior. The pretext to this game of throwing and catching disk is a picnic with Lady, as she continually gets more and more preggers. Jake and Lady easily only continue to get cuter per episode revolving around them, as Jake takes good care of her and makes sure she isn’t straining herself too much. I can argue for days about how Jake was somewhat of a jerk to his buddy two episodes ago in Jake the Dog, but I could never argue that he doesn’t love that damn Rainicorn to death.

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Once Finn begins his journey climbing up the tree, we meet some delightfully off-putting animal characters: the Porcupine and Squirrel. I really like their heavily inspired 1930’s animal designs, and their general behavior/demeanor is really enjoyably unusual to me. Jim Cummings voices the Porcupine, as well as most of the other featured animals, and he does a great job of giving a charming, yet deeply unsettling performance for the Porcupine especially. Cummings has a pretty easily recognizable voice, but one that I really never get tired of hearing, so it’s nice to have him offer his talents to AT. The Squirrel, who later ends up becoming an ally to Finn, is actually a one-off character I’m quite fond of. I think his general indecisiveness and inflections (performed by Marc Maron) really carry his character through, and there’s always something very likable and endearing about Adventure Time’s loser characters, as well as the way they are treated. Like, I’m sure they knew that we were only going to see this character once and he probably wasn’t going to be used again, and so Somvy and Skyler could’ve taken the easy and meaner root of having the Squirrel’s flying just fail completely, but fuck it. This random Squirrel who we’ve only known for five minutes deserves a happy ending, so they gave it to ‘im!! AT’s lack of sadism towards its own characters never fails to charm me.

The animal occult strikes me as quite odd. Like, what are they about? They just lock up any trespassers who enter the tree for inexplicable reasons? What is the basis of their government and slogan of “in the tree, part of the tree?” It’s never really explained and somewhat feels like a forced conflict, but eh, I never really took it that seriously and I don’t think we’re supposed to. I think we’re just supposed to enjoy the creepy, big eyed animals and their deranged methods, and I certainly do. The Owl, also voiced by Jim Cummings, is a pretty fun antagonist for how little he’s on screen. Again, his entire character and memorability pretty much derives from his design as well as voice, because he really doesn’t have enough screentime or character for me to actually find him interesting otherwise. Also, he inexplicably wears a shirt that says “Owl” on it, just in case people don’t know what kind of animal he is? Pretty funny.

As a side note, there’s some really nice backgrounds in this one, courtesy of Santino Lascano and Derek Hunter, that I felt inclined to include them below.

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Like I mentioned, there’s a lot of breaks in silence, awkward moments, and odd jabs at humor that Somvilay’s pretty accustomed to at this point, but a lot of little moments I actually found myself laughing at this time around. Brief moments like Jake pointing at the frisbee before going to pick it up or the audio clip of Finn saying “pooooped” repeatedly being used aren’t really inherently funny ideas, but work in the way that Somvilay intended them to come off: so “not funny” that they end up being delivered as funny. Again, this is something that’s very objective, though. I’ve been a heavy critic of this style of writing in the past, so I can easily see someone finding this episode completely unfunny. It really is just the matter of somehow hitting a person’s sensibilities whether it wants to or not, which can completely fail for me in instances like Ignition Point, yet somehow work in this episode. This is really why I think Somvilay is one of the most unique and innovative writers on the show: no matter how badly his approach to humor fails, he does everything in his power to make his episodes as “unfunny” as possible, which somehow wildly pays off occasionally. It’s really quite the spectacle.

That being said, it doesn’t excuse the fact that I just really cannot get behind the way he draws Finn on occasions, and this being one of the most notorious. Besides exaggerating the tubed body to EXTREME lengths, once Finn is shrunken down, the hole for his face on his hat becomes unnaturally small. Like, I guess you could argue that it’s somehow a result of the cursed apple, but it just looks so God damn jarring a good majority of the episode, and isn’t visually interesting or funny enough to even enjoy. I just keep scratching my head on why the hole is so fucking small!

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As I mentioned earlier, the ending closes off with a pretty beautiful flight into the sunset, featuring the Squirrel and Finn. It’s simply an ending that works entirely on an emotional level and makes ya feel really warm and fuzzy: Finn retrieves his disk and the Squirrel gets to call himself a flying squirrel. We also get a cameo from the snail who is now free from the Lich’s control, and Jake, who is happily stirring up some pickles and ice cream for his significant other. All is well in the Land of Ooo!

I like this one quite a bit. Like I said, this is one I can imagine people don’t like because of the very slow approaches to humor, but I don’t even really like this one on a humorous level. I just like it because it’s easy to watch. Nice colors, nice designs, nice atmosphere, and a nice ending. Everything about it is just really… well, nice, and it’s hard to really argue against an episode that just kind of sets out to make you feel good. It accomplishes that goal quite well, and makes for a simplistic and endearing story in the ever-changing world of Adventure Time.

Favorite line: “The wind blows!”

“Five More Short Graybles” Review

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Original Airdate: November 19, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Steve Wolfhard & Tom Herpich

We’re back with another Graybles episode! As I’ve mentioned before, Graybles focused episodes are far from my favorite AT excerpts, but nevertheless are always fun and charming little expeditions throughout the everyday lives of Ooo’s civilians. This episode is also significant in being Steve Wolfhard’s first board as a full time storyboard artist. This is also Wolfhard and Tom Herpich’s first board together, and they would eventually become one of my favorite teams in the entire series, as well as the longest running partnership to date.  

The first grayble, which revolves around Finn and Jake, is much like their first grayble together, as it’s consistently occurring in the background of other graybles and closes the entire sequence. It’s not as spontaneous or epic as their high-five challenge, but it’s certainly cute and inventive. I love Jake reading waaay too deeply into the book of nursery rhymes, which could and/or could not be a reference to others reading way too deeply into children’s cartoons like AT, but it makes for a silly idea regardless. The entire segment feels like a return to the carefree enjoyment of the Land of Ooo after four episodes of heavy drama. I know people really wanted Adventure Time to be this really heavily serialized show after the Lich came back into play, but it’s nice to watch a completely stress-free hangout session of the boys sticking their thumbs in various items. My favorite (and the cutest of all) was Jake sticking his thumb in the belly of a now very noticeably pregnant Lady. D’awww!

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Next up is Marceline’s story, which, after only seeing her once in a blue moon during season four, it’s nice to get to spend time with her 3 out of the 4 past episodes (even though the last two she was in technically wasn’t our beloved Marcy). Again, this scene is cute. It’s nothing particularly funny or spectacular, though the obvious “rock giant” pun did get a guilty snicker out of me. The one gripe I have with this one is that, if Marcy was flying above the clouds on the rock giant’s hand, then how the fuck didn’t she interact with the sun at all? It’s pretty obvious that this was an afterthought, as the sky did appear sunny in the previews of the episode. I assume that someone noticed and quickly made the sky dark and cloudy before the premiere of the episode, which is slightly less distracting than if the sky was just completely sunny. All I can say about this slight inconsistency is, “at least it isn’t Princess Day.”

The Tree Trunks short really steals the show for me, with a hilarious innuendo that I’m actually quite surprised got past the censors. Though, I think it’s subtle enough that even children who are too young to understand the joke will able to have enough fun with it anyways. It’s also nice to see TT in a scenario that’s well fitting for her. Dream of Love was perhaps her most pitiful episode to date, and made it clear that, while I do very much enjoy her character, she really struggles to hold up an entire episode on her own. Thus, it’s nice to include her in the Graybles format, in a story short that incorporates her character well and doesn’t overdo her slow and sometimes meandering personality. Also, Shelby returns! After going the entire fourth season without appearing, it’s nice to see the little guy back in the spotlight, and he does start gradually appearing more from Season Five onward. His high-pitched Pendleton Ward voice is always welcomed, and he really helps drive the main joke of the grayble to a hilarious conclusion. And, despite my disdain for the OG Cinnamon Bun, I think him hopping up and down in Tree Trunks’ stockings was actually pretty funny. Wonderful!

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Ice King’s story is also a comedic high point for the episode. Though I think the Ice King legitimately dating his foot is a bit too sad and insane for even the IK, there’s a good amount of funny gags with this one that I don’t mind the ludicrousy of it. There’s also some terrifically grotesque close ups of the IK’s feet and hands, complete with bulging veins and liver spots. It’s also surprisingly sweet to once again see Ice King’s view of marriage, this time he points out, “That means I get the remote control three days a week and you get it four!” It caps off with a perfect ending as well, as Ice King begins to develop feelings for his seductive looking right foot. Man, I didn’t think I’d ever find a character from this show more fascinated with feet than Jake is.

BMO’s tale returns to the interactions between she and Football, and it’s nothing that new. It’s basically everything that was already established by their first grayble, and nothing really more interesting from there. Though, I do like how far BMO is willing to go with her imagination. The fact that she repeatedly splashes herself with tea and begins short-circuiting is both somewhat concerning and hilarious. BMO doesn’t give a shit if she explodes completely, as long as she captures the perspective of being a living child.

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And of course, we close out with Cuber’s big revelation of the overarching theme! I enjoy how this one fucks with everyone’s perception equally, and again, manages to avoid directly mentioning the bird being flipped. I thought it was a perfect ending that caught me pretty off guard, and definitely urged me to be more alert for plot twists when the next Graybles episode came along.

So yeah, not much to say with this one. It’s not great nor bad, just a cute selection of stories revolving around the delightful citizens of Ooo. Much like the first Graybles episode, there isn’t anything that particularly noteworthy, but still a fun and enjoyable entry that is still an entirely pleasant sit-through.

Favorite line: “No one’s had five fingers for twenty blablillion glaybles!”

“Jake the Dog” Review

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Original Airdate: November 12, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Cole Sanchez & Rebecca Sugar

Onto Jake the Dog! Without going into too much detail already, I think it’s safe to say that this episode is an improvement over the last one. Does that make it good? Ehhh, well, let’s dive deeper.

I did mention at the end of the review that I was anticipating more of Prismo, who to this date is one of my favorite secondary characters, for no other reason than the fact that he’s just a cool dude. I like his laidback, charismatic attitude, his voice work, courtesy of Kumail Nanjiani and his willingness to help others, despite his obligations as a wishmaster. He’s always a very enjoyable presence, and this episode highlights everything that’s so likable about his character, and why he’s so fun to be around. I like his connection with Jake especially, and feel that, besides F&J and PB & Marcy, they make for one of the greatest friendships in the series (yes, I just called PB and Marceline friends. Please don’t verbally eviscerate me).

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This one essentially contains an A-plot and a B-plot, so, while I’m on the subject of Prismo, lemme go into detail about Jake’s side of the story. The episode is called Jake the Dog for a reason, it emphasizes some of the most well-defined aspects of his personality: his carefree attitude, his laziness, and his desire to be leisurely and kick back with others. To a degree, I think it does all three of those a little too well. I’m on the side of the crowd that believes that Jake is a little too selfish and a little too stupid in this one for my own liking. I get that the titles Finn the Human and Jake the Dog are supposed to highlight Finn and Jake’s differences: Finn’s nobility, desire to do good, and undying devotion for others contrasts with Jake’s own wants and needs, but at the same time, a large part of Jake’s character is his devotion to his best friend as well. Jake was willing to latch onto the fucking Lich two episodes ago for the sake of the world, and it’s honestly frustrating to watch him so blatantly ignore his brother’s alternate self (who is technically his current self) crumbling around him. The idea that all Jake wants to wish for is a sandwich is quite funny, but not when his friend’s life is on the line.

It’s honestly just poor context for the scenario, because I really enjoy Jake’s time chilling with Prismo and the Cosmic Owl. It’s so silly in its own right – that two cosmic beings are just casually sitting around, eating cheesy snack in a hot tub, and playing board games. It really is an excellent example of what makes each and every character so great in AT; even some of the most highly regarded beings in the universe can be just as goofy and “normal” as our two main boys. I like Jake giving Prismo relationship advice as well, showing us how different Prismo is in regards to Jake’s optimistic and honest relationship with his own girlfriend. I get the feeling that the reason Prismo is so nice and friendly is the fact that he does get lonely. He’s restricted to the confines of his timeline and probably only gets to speak to “singulars” when they want something from him. Prismo finally found someone who’s interested in just hanging out, and not someone who’s using him for his own personal gain.

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But, as I said, because of the circumstances, all of the scenes featuring Jake and friends feel unnecessarily cruel and inappropriate in relation to all of the scenes featuring Farmworld Finn. And, unlike the previous episode, I’m actually invested in Farmworld Finn’s dilemma and emotional state this time around. The two stories are interlaced so awkwardly that the combination of humor and drama really kind of falls flat, which is something AT is typically terrific with in terms of blending genres and moods.

I wouldn’t be so critical of it if the Farmworld Finn aspect wasn’t interesting, but this time around, it’s really freakin’ entertaining. I definitely expected tons of apocalyptic references from this episode, but tying the ice crown back into these themes is really intriguing. From the moment that Finn puts it on, it’s changing faster and more drastically than it did for Simon. Why? Well, two possible reasons. One is that Finn is young and still inexperienced, and his impressionable mind was altered faster than Simon, who is full of knowledge and life experience. Second, it could be that, while Simon strongly resisted the power of the crown, Finn accepted it and allowed it to take over his mind. Of course, the simple answer is probably that there’s only so much inner turmoil that could’ve been covered with Farmworld Finn in the course of seven minutes, but it’s still an interesting thought to be analyzed. The stuff we do get with Farmworld Finn is really powerful and tragic regardless.

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Despite my complaints that Farmworld Finn was difficult to empathize with in the last episode, it really is tough to sit through the hardships and insanity he experiences, especially with his family. One of the most impactful moments of Jake the Dog is Finn’s conversation with his family. The interactions between Finn and his mother are sad enough, as that connection has proved to be the strongest out of Farmworld Finn’s relationships, but the most effective reaction from his family derives from his baby sibling. Or, more so, Finn’s reaction to his baby sibling’s crying. I love how control of the crown does connect to caring and loving for another being, so when Finn sees that his brother is noticeably upset, he does what he must to save his family from the power of the crown, yet does not take it off. It’s a subtle, but powerful moment that really emphasizes the greatest flaws of the crown: the wearer may be able to save everyone around him/her, but won’t be able to resist the urge to wear the crown.

Once the mutagenic bomb does set off (featuring the infamous animation error of the crown still being placed on Simon’s skeleton) things get even darker and grittier, as Finn beholds a disintegrating Marceline and the mutated remains of his pet dog. Finn’s demeanor and behavior transpire into pure insanity, which is both really entertaining and also somewhat horrifying. I have to give it to Jeremy Shada, this may be one of his best voice acting efforts in the entire series. Not to imply that he’s ever performed badly, but he so magnificently emulates the Ice King mannerisms, as well as the breaking fear and sadness in Finn’s voice, making for a really, really powerful performance. The bit with Finn fearfully crawling back from Jake as he transforms into the Lich cuts me deeply inside. It also raises an interesting question: was the Lich created from the mutagenic bomb, or did he simply arise once again from the destruction of the bomb? As further episodes suggest, he’s existed as long as the universe, if not longer, so I’m assuming he’s been defeated and silenced time and time again, only to arise and cause destruction once more.

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Drawing towards the end, in a return to Jake and Prismo’s antics, Jake conducts the perfect wish to ultimately retcon the mishaps around him. It’s a bit underwhelming to have everything return to normal after this entire arc, even if there are lasting effects that will return later on, but unfortunately, we won’t be seeing anything from this selection of stories for quite sometime. So by its end, Jake the Dog does have Jake showing off his heroic side by saving the day for everyone, but sadly, I think it was a little too late in the episode for me to root for him.

When it comes down to it, this one is just decent in my eyes. I know this is one people like a ton, and that’s understandable! As I mentioned, there’s some really juicy bits in this episode. Farmworld Finn’s experiences with the ice crown are more than enough to justify this existence of this episode, with really nice animation, design, backgrounds, emotion, voice acting, and, especially, lore. Unfortunately for me, the Jake parts weaken a majority of the stronger plot points. The pacing, as I mentioned, is really sporadic, and dampen the emotional and intense roots of the A-plot. The ending also feels like the entire journey was worth nothing; I’m not someone who believes that Adventure Time needs to be a completely serialized show and that anything good is strictly plot related, but if you’re going to drop a three-part epic about the Lich on us, I’d expect a bit more of a lasting impact than just returning to the wacky and goofy antics of the characters of Ooo an episode later and not touching on any of these issues for a whole 52 episodes. I’m still satisfied with the bit of excitement we got while exploring the Farmworld, and its content still resonates with me greatly even if the entire episode does not.

Favorite line: “Here, eat this egg. It’s brain food.”

“Finn the Human” Review

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Original Airdate: November 12, 2012

Written & Storyboarded by: Tom Herpich & Jesse Moynihan

The season premiere starts off much like how the last season premiere began: right where the finale left off. The Lich ended with a fast-paced, hectic journey into the multiverse, and the stakes never seemed higher. What was in store for AT’s audience was completely unknown, and the fanbase sat patiently as we endured a long, three week break (yeah, remember when three weeks was the longest period of time we waited for new episodes?). So we all sat down, got ready for the thrilling follow up to the previous episode, annnnd… were mostly met with middling and underwhelming results. Well, at least I was.

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I think the root of the main problem for the episode is simply that the Farmworld just isn’t very interesting. The idea of a world without magic seems so promising and intriguing, yet it just doesn’t seem to have an identity outside of the fact that society has seemingly regressed into a more medieval period because of the creation of an ice age. I would’ve much more enjoyed the possibility of a corrupted future where its civilians ignore the existence of magic and beckon it off as something that should not be discussed, but instead we’re dealt with the typical story of a country boy who has to sacrifice for his family.

Farmworld Finn himself isn’t really a compelling protagonist and I genuinely didn’t really enjoy watching him. He’s a blander, less charismatic version of Finn, and unlike the actual Finn, I really just don’t care about what happens to his pet mule Bartram or the inhabitants of his family. I know this is actually Finn we’re supposed to be caring about and identifying with, but it just doesn’t feel like Finn. This Finn seems almost completely apathetic to what’s going on until the end (something that I think can unfortunately plague Herpich’s writing of the actual character as well) and has no issue with stealing from an older, crabbier Marceline. I know he figured she was crazy, but still, I think the action was somewhat crueler than it had to be. I think if Farmworld Finn simply found the crown and Marceline saw him leaving with it and then pursued him, it would be a bit more of an understandable clause. I get the idea that Farmworld Finn is supposed to be written as a more mundane, modern child character, but there’s just very little that makes me actually care for him. He’s supposed to be Finn, but he’s just… not. The one notable piece of exposition that serves his character well is the reveal of his full name, Finn Mertens. It’s a pretty significant information drop that opens the question on whether or not this is really Finn’s full name, which Finn actually learns subconsciously later on. I’m guessing Farmworld Finn’s self-awareness of his full title was something Finn somehow picked up on his own.

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The inclusion of Marceline made for an interesting tale. I enjoy the detail that, because of the second ice age, she was never bitten, and remains as a decrepit old demon. It really raises the question of, “how long will Marcy actually live for?” to which I honestly have no idea what the answer is. I’m sure demons can live for a long period of time and then die off, but exactly how long? It’s something that continuously has me wondering. Also, her devotion to Simon, as well as protection of the crown, is really sweet. It seems that she’s unable to leave in fear of being ridiculed as a freak by society for her demon-like appearance, so she’s lived in isolation for years, making sure nobody enters the same fate as her beloved father figure. It also leads to one of the most somber, as well as hilarious, interactions in the entire episode, where Simon demands that Marceline should return the crown to him. It could be all in Marceline’s head, or a product of the crown still possessing Simon’s body and thoughts, but either way, it’s really sad to see that, after all these years, Simon’s voice still plays as clear as day in Marceline’s head, but also humorous because it’s Ice King’s inflections and tone.

The biggest highlight of this episode is the Destiny Gang, a group of really generic looking and speaking bullies that just crack me up, given their almost sociopathic nature. Their leader, Big Destiny, actually offers interesting insight that’s both somewhat insane and slightly thought-provoking. The Destiny Gang themselves are practically equivalent to a cult, believing that everyone has a specific destiny in store for them, and if someone crosses them, their fate will be as awful as one could imagine. It’s a pretty tyrannical concept, highlighting a group of bullies as prophetic figures who decide the fate of others, but also hilarious given the fact that, they really are just bullies who love torturing people for their own sadistic kicks. Funny bullies, but bullies nonetheless. It really is a terrific mix-match of both threatening and silly, and showcases a group of some of the most threatening villains yet, who are human by nature. Scary.

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There’s a few other nice details, including Finn’s robot arm, which is always a fun part of his alternate selves, as well as the similarities between Farmworld Finn’s mother and father to his later introduced biological parents. Besides those two positive tidbits, I actually have quite a few nitpicks on side details that really frustrate me as any of the bigger elements would. First of all, why does everyone in Farmworld have eye whites and noses? I know that was the design choice to make the Farmworld feel more “human,” but c’mon, it makes no sense with the world already established and doesn’t connect to the other visual examples of humans in the series. We’ve seen humans several times before this episode and several times after (Heat Signature, Susan Strong, Elemental, and Helpers are just some examples) and never has anyone been shown with eye whites, or to a lesser extent, noses. It’s just a frustrating detail that really throws off the authenticity of Finn as a human. It feels like something Pendleton Ward wanted to do, as he holds the belief that Finn is mutated due to his lack of nose and dotted eyes, but I still stand that it’s a pretty phony argument and has been retconned several times in the series. So why would a humanized incarnation of an already human Finn look like that? It just doesn’t work for me.

Another issue I have is how believable the world they’ve set up is. Like, why would Finn even own Jake as a pet? Jake’s parents are the ones who found Finn in the woods, and also the ones who originally named Jake, so how would Finn even gain possession of Jake, let alone give Jake the name that his talking dog parents gave him? Also, the inclusion of Choose Bruce seems confusingly dumb to me. Why would Choose Goose be a human? Wouldn’t he have mutated from an actual goose? Does this mean Choose Goose in the actual series was once human and was either transformed or mutated into being a Goose? I am reading way too far into this one guys, I know, but I just really do not understand the logic behind this wish-world and I can’t seem to wrap my finger around the absurdity of these two very uncanny reference points.

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Nitpicks aside, this episode is just entirely dull. It isn’t till the ending I actually began to care and get invested in the characters and situations, which made the entire episode feel retroactively meaningless. I know it’s just setting up for the events of the next episode, much like Holly Jolly Secrets – Part 1 did, but I’ve learned over time that “setup” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “uninteresting.” Wake Up, Preboot, or Lemonhope – Part 1 are all examples of episodes that build up to their typically bigger second parts, yet still manage to be very interesting and entertaining in their own right. Finn the Human fails to do any of that, and feels like a bland attempt at using exposition to make up for the fact that there’s nothing that funny, interesting, or enjoyable going on. The only bit of intrigue this one left me when the commercial break start was, “what’s going to happen to Finn as he wears the crown?” and “what’s going on with Jake while he remains in Prismo’s time room?” Both of those questions would be answered in the next episode, as I was surprisingly more excited to visit one of the newest additions to the AT cast, Prismo the Wishmaster, than to delve deeper into the Farmworld.

Favorite line: “How did I even get here, son?”